Where is the Black Isle?
The Black Isle is located in the Scottish Highlands just north of Inverness (around 15 minutes’ drive). It’s connected to the mainland in the South by the Kessock Bridge and in the North by the Cromarty bridge. It’s almost entirely surrounded by the sea which gives it a real island feel. Its name is thought to have originated from the fact that snow rarely falls on the isle, unlike the surrounding hills. It’s a very easy day trip from Inverness or you might want to base yourself here as there’s so much to explore and discover.
Best things to see and do on the Black Isle
Wander the streets of Cromarty
Head to the north of the Black Isle and discover the picturesque town of Cromarty, an old fishing port with an attractive sandy beach and an interesting selection of shops and restaurants.
Discover Hugh Miller’s Cottage (Cromarty)
If culture and history is your thing, then Cromarty doesn’t disappoint. The famous geologist and writer, Hugh Miller was born here in 1802 and you can visit his perfectly preserved little thatched cottage and museum.
Get locked up at the Old Courthouse Museum (Cromarty)
Just round the corner from the cottage is the Old Courthouse Museum. It dates back to 1773 and now contains some fascinating exhibitions, show casing what life has been like in Cromarty over the years.
Boat crossing on the Nigg Ferry (Cromarty)
If you are heading North from Cromarty either by car, foot or on your bike, then why not take the little Nigg ferry. It’s a small boat that can only carry a maximum of 2 cars and 12 people and the crossing is short, but it does save a lot of driving time. As you pass through the small settlement of Nigg it’s definitely worth popping into the attractive old kirk to see the impressive Pictish Stone from the 8th Century.
A car costs around £10 one way and passengers are just under £5.
Have a Walk at Fairy Glen Falls – Rosemarkie
If you are looking to stretch your legs and take a break from the road, then this delightful 3km country walk is just the tonic. The well signposted path follows a picturesque stream, that meanders through magical ancient woodland. The route has a few gentle hills with some steps here and there and is ideal for children. The highlight for many is the two dramatic waterfalls, that roar and tumble over the rugged rocky outcrop.
Local legend has it, that children from nearby Rosemarkie used to carry out a special ceremony here. This involved decorating the pools with beautiful flowers to ensure that fairies kept the water clean for the following year.
The walk starts at a little carpark just off the A832 that runs from Rosemarkie to Cromarty. The entrance is on the right just as you leave Rosemarkie. The town centre is also worth exploring with a small selection of shops and restaurants, I recommend the Beach Café with its lovely sea view.
Address: 14 Bridge Street, Rosemarkie, Fortrose, Ross-shire, IV10 8UP
Blow away the cobwebs at Rosemarkie Beach
This was such a lovely find! We finished our walk at Fairy Glen and headed back to the centre of Rosemarkie. We spotted a signpost for the beach, took a left and discovered this gorgeous, sheltered bay. A great spot to have a sandwich or a coffee at the Beach Café.
Dolphin Watching at Chanonry Point Lighthouse (near Fortrose)
The lighthouse is situated in a dramatic location on a narrow strip of land surrounded by the sea. This spot is world famous for its bottlenose dolphins that love to swim in the calm clear waters. There is a lovely sandy beach next to the lighthouse and on a sunny day it’s a great place for a picnic on one of the benches.
The pay and display carpark can get busy in summer, so we find it’s better to park in the village and walk a little. If you have a passion for dolphins, then visit nearby Avoch and book a tour with Dolphin Trips Avoch, there are daily sailings from the harbour.
A visit to the picturesque town of Fortrose is well worth the detour. We recommend visiting the ruins of the 13th century red sandstone cathedral located in a quiet square in the town. It’s free to visit.
Have a beer at the Black Isle Brewery
Located in Munlochy, the Black Isle Brewery produces a wonderful selection of craft beers using barley from its own organic farm on the Black Isle. The farm also grows fruit and vegetables used at their small chain of bars, one of them being in Inverness.
If you have time, stop by the brewery and experience one of their great daily tours and learn about the process of making tasty organic beer. The full range of their beer is available to buy at the well-stocked shop.
Get healed at the Clootie Well
Update 2023: an anonymous person cleared the Clootie Well of all its ‘cloots’ without any prior permission in Jan 2022. Locals were very upset at this unwanted act. You can see the before and after photos by clicking here. The ‘cloots’ are slowly reappearing, however, the feel of the place has changed.
Discover an area of local folklore and tradition by heading to Clootie Well, an ancient healing site. For many years, people have visited this wooded area in Munlochy to partake in a healing ceremony. They would bring an item of cloth (cloot) belonging to a sick person and after dipping it in the healing water, would hang it to a tree believing that the person would be healed of their illness once the cloth rotted away. All the trees are covered in hanging cloths and rags giving the area a mysterious feel verging on slightly eerie.
Where to eat on the Black Isle?
Where to eat in Cromarty
There is plenty of choice of places to eat in Cromarty. For excellent local seafood and awesome woodfired pizza head to Sutors Creek, named after the massive rocks at the entrance to the Firth of Cromarty.
If you are a fan of cheese then you will be close to heaven in the The House of Cheese, a speciality cheese shop located in the old police station. Continuing with the food theme, I recommend checking out the Cromarty Bakery, famous in the Highlands for its excellent bread and pastries.
Where to eat in Rosemarkie
There is a really lovely beach at Rosemarkie and a great café to boot. Head to the Rosemarkie Beach café, a community café run by the Rosemarkie Amenities Association. Alternatively, opt for a traditional Scottish pub at the Plough Inn on the High Street. They have a great beer garden, the perfect spot for a refreshment after walking the Fairy Glen.
Where to eat in Fortrose
For a light bite, head to the IV10 Café bar deli or the Fortrose café. Alternatively, opt for a takeaway and head down to the 19th century harbour to take in the sea air. Sample fish and chips from McGinty’s fish and chip shop or Tweedy Pie. Pick up some delicious treats from the Bakhoos bakery.
Where to stay on the Black Isle?
You can easily do a day trip from Inverness to the Black Isle, however, you may prefer to stay on site and really explore the peninsula. There is plenty of choice of accommodation including hotels, b&b’s, self-catering cottages.